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Dancing with the Stars

Cheryl Burke on Being at the Bottom of the DWTS Leaderboard with Ryan Lochte: 'I Think We Were a Bit Underscored'

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Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images

Dancing with the Stars‘ Cheryl Burke has returned to the reality dance competition she first joined in 2006, and is blogging about season 23 exclusively for PEOPLE. Follow Burke and her partner Ryan Lochte, both 32, on Twitter!

This has been a CRAZY week!

I thought our rumba was great for Ryan last Monday. I think the number was really classy, but I understand the judges critique that we needed more passion and character. But that said, 7s are not great scores and we should be doing better at this point in the competition. I think we were a bit underscored — and any other season, we’d be getting higher scores — but this season is full of stiff competition and every week is a new week.

I was really happy that we actually won the team dance competition. Everyone was putting their money on Team Future. They had a faster song and a stacked team. But we made the best with what we had and put together the best Viennese waltz. It was amazing to see Ryan getting 10s from the judges but because of our couple’s dance scores, we were still second-to-last on the leaderboard at the end of the night.

Coming out of our first night with two dances, everyone was exhausted after Monday. But we had no time to rest with FOUR dances to learn for this week.

In addition for our Halloween-themed dance, we have to prepare three different dances for a dance-off.

For our main dance, Ryan and I are dancing a tango. The tango for Ryan has been good because it’s all about staying in frame and he really understands what that is now. With that out of the way, we really are focusing on character.

Since it’s Halloween night, I’m playing a version of Maleficent and Ryan is the crow that is always with her. We have some of the troupe dancing with us and a fun castle setting, so I’m hoping it’s really easy for Ryan to step into character when we get out on the floor.

Because that’s our longer routine, we really focused on the tango for most of the week. We didn’t even start working on the dance-off until Friday.

For the dance-off, we’ll be doing either a salsa, cha-cha or jive against one of the other couples. Unfortunately, we won’t know which dance or which couple until right before we go out to compete.

Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images
Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images

The good thing about the dance-off is that Ryan has done a cha-cha and a salsa already, so we’re only approaching the jive as completely new. I went back and watched our old salsa and cha-cha and I have to say, Ryan has improved so much since then.

Learning four dances has been a bit of a brain overload for Ryan this week, but pressure has made him focus even more than usual. In past weeks, we’d split rehearsals into three-hour blocks but with so much to do, we’ve been going six hours straight. He’s a trooper though and is powering through everything.

I’ve been a part of dance-offs before, but this is way more intense this year. America is voting live so you’ll be able to see on screen who is voting for us — and you’ll be able to see who the weakest link is.

I’m hoping we don’t have to go against someone who has been consistently at the top of the leaderboard. I think it’s most fair that people pick to compete against a couple they feel is their equal. I hope we get to dance against Marilu Henner and Derek Hough. I think that will be the most fair.

But whomever we get to go against, I am so proud of how Ryan has prepared for this week and I hope all that work shows!

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.